We often hear that homeschooled children lack social skills. This week, our seeds of wisdom panel answers the question "How do you refute this claim and ensure that your children receive the opportunity to interact with other children on a regular basis."
I really feel that early on, we are working to establish a close family relationship. The social skills that I would primarily like for my children to develop I believe should come from me and my husband, and the way they interact in a family unit. I really think it is poor logic to say children learn social skills by just putting them together with other children. What kind of social skills? You don't want to teach a child to swim by just throwing them in deep water.
We were actually very concerned about socialization when we first started homeschooling. Over the years, we've come to realize this is really not an issue for us. As we go about our life, we are presented with many opportunities to socialize with others. Besides the everyday interactions, our children are involved in Sunday school, co-op classes, choir, AWANAs, Upward sports, and play groups at a local park. Additionally, we make a purposeful effort to have the children socialize with people who are not necessarily 'just like them.' We want them to develop a heart for the world.
My favorite non-threatening response is "Well, we were very concerned about that as well when we began homeschooling. As it turns out, we shouldn't have been worried. They have so many opportunities to interact with so many people - it's really been a non-issue." What I am thinking to myself, however, also includes "Now they get to share activities and interests with people of all ages instead of 16 people whose only commonality is the year in which they were born. And there are so many homeschool groups and activities out there we just can't fit them all in! Turns out they are much better socialized now then they were when we were in school because their largest influences are not their same-age peers."
To be honest, this is one of my biggest concerns about homeschooling and an area where I want to look at the research. Since my girls are still young (ages 1 and 3), this is not really an issue for us yet. I make sure that the girls have the opportunity to interact with other children in an unstructured environment almost daily. Even their friends who attend preschool only go to school a few mornings a week, so this is currently easy to do. We are actively involved in two playgroups, have frequent playdates, and participate in some organized activities.
Studies show that kids don't need as much "socialization" as some people may thing. My kids have Sunday School, Tuesday morning class, and sports-type activities to keep their skills on the up and up. Not to mention playdates when Mommy gets socialization as well.
As a parent, it is my responsibility to nurture growth in all areas: spiritual, physical, educational, and social growth. And I do feel the need to facilitate opportunities for my children to be with others. They must learn to interact with others before they can share their faith. On the other hand, I do not feel the need for them to become like others (i.e. like the world). So, I guess it would depend a little bit on a person's definition of "socialization."